Spain, May 2016

P1130805Dear Friends; We came to Spain a few days ago on an eleven-hour, non-stop flight from Guayaquil to Madrid. With us on the huge, cramped Iberia plane was a French search and rescue team, part of the United Nations’ INSARAG that provides international coordination in earthquake response. The men had just spent ten days in Puerto Viejo, the coastal city most affected by the 7.8 earthquake two weeks ago, a somber reminder of the devastation that has left so many lives and homes destroyed while we take off for a month’s vacation. The men were dressed in their bright red and blue uniforms, heavy boots, helmets, with badges and such. They were treated as heroes and given the roomy exit seats, two of them across and slightly ahead of us (sitting in middle 4-seat rows), so I had many hours to stare at their handsome Gallic profiles and wonder at the terrible things they had seen. (The search for bodies was given up after about a week, when the death toll reached over 650). Interestingly, the men near us were more middle-aged, in good shape to be sure, but not young. At the Madrid airport, they hustled into the “in transit” line for their flight to France while we joined the “exit, non-EEU” line.

P1130608This is our fourth trip to Spain but the first time we’ve actually left the airport in Madrid.  Previously, we passed right through to reach other destinations, but this time,we planned to spend four days in Madrid before taking off for points south. And we were not disappointed, beginning with our accommodations at the Hostal Dulcinea on Cervantes street. In this old neighborhood of narrow winding streets, where Miguel Cervantes, of Don Quijote fame, lived and died, as de Lope Vega, a 16th century scribbler and womanizer who is adored by the Spanish and whose house and garden has been lovingly reconstructed. Thank you our friend, Padre Manuel, for recommending this place. José and María return your greetings.P1130596P1130599   P1130650After four months of local Cañar fare, we were very ready for new tastes and flavors and wines and beers. So – ignoring past experience – we went right out immediatly on arrival and had a big plate of pulpo a la gallega (warm octopus, with potatoes, pimenton, olive oil) and two glasses of wine and beer each.  In Cañar it would have been about 10:00 AM, and that, combined with jet lag, meant a weird night, with my body puzzled about where it was and what was happening. But after a couple of days we adjusted, and last night we went back for more (pulpo that is).P1130660While our barrio de letras was human scale and intimate, the Madrid art museums are outsized and overwhelming. The Prado, where I last visited in the hazy past of 1968, with my two sisters, has expanded to become a small city of art. We started in the Valazquez wing, and didn’t get much beyond, a testament to his prodigious output as much as to our limited stamina. But we loved what we saw, drifting through the galleries with flocks of tourists on guided tours – sometimes up to 50 or 60 in a gaggle. We did better the next day, at the Thyssen Collection, although after the 20th century modern I had to retreat to our hotel for a nap and return to see the rest. Another thing I like: museums stay open until 7:00.P1130699As I write this we are on the bus to Granada (first photo above) – five easy hours, and for the past hour nothing but olive trees marching up hillsides, around mountains, and across plains. Industrial agriculture to be sure, but the scene is lovely – rows of light olive green against reddish soil, with backdrop of cloudy sky (see the reflection of driver on left side?).P1130729 The first three days Madrid, with bright sun and warmth, lulled us into thinking we’d hit the good weather, as did half the population of the city, out in the streets and squares and sidewalk cafes. Yesterday and today: chilly and rain and everyone disappeared, with more rain coming for our visit to the Alhambra in Granada. Stay tuned, more to come…

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4 thoughts on “Spain, May 2016

  1. Dear Judy, I am going to Spain May 22 – 31st. Any chance we might be in the same place at the same time? We arrive in Barcelona – then to Valencia – then ending in Madrid… I am so looking forward to it all! Have fun! Love, Lisa

  2. Dear Judy and Michael:

    If you were in the Velasquez wing of the Prado, you know doubt experienced or saw Las Meninas, what some consider the greatest painting of all time, Period.

    If you are going to Barcelona, after your trip to Andalusia, I highly recommend going to the Picasso Museum. In one of the rooms of the Picasso Museum, there are 46 of the 58 paintings that Picasso did in the span of 8 months first deconstructing, then reconstructing, Velasquez’ Las Meninas. It is a mind-blowing experience–Velasquez, Picasso, las Meninas–to see these paintings within a span of days. Regina and I did that in November 2014 when we visited Spain. We landed in Madrid, then sped south on a fast train to Andalucia: Granada, Cordoba and Sevilla, then on another fast train north to Barcelona. I wish I could post to your blog a photo I took of the olive trees in Cervantes’ country–La Mancha–as we traveled through.

  3. You reminded me of how much I loved the Thyssen Collection. I fell in love with paintings and with museums that display them in Spain. Picasso, gory Goya, and Miró… Better than the art sometimes was sitting up high on those Spanish buses (as it looks like you were) and gazing out at all of the olivos! So glad you and Michael are having a good trip.

  4. We are also in Spain, have been here a month, now in Bilbao, as you, started in Madrid, we planned our trip so as not to spend more than three or four hours on bus or train. Really enjoyed Granada and Cordoba, Merida was quiet and interesting, Leon as well. Loved Salamanca and Oviedo. Next stop Zaragoza for two nights, then meeting my sister and bro in law in Barcelona for a week. Then flying to Portugal. This is our first time in Spain, I have wanted to come here since High School, not sure why it took so long. Safe travels to you!
    Con afecto, Susan and Gary
    PS if you are in Madrid on a Sat or Sun, Casa America is way cool to tour.

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